How to get your first job as a translator on Upwork

How to get your first job as a translator on Upwork

The job of a translator

Working as a translator consists in converting written material into different languages with the purpose of making them readable and comprehensive. Although the job as a translator could be seen as an easy one, it is not. Translation labor involves a lot of research, cultural knowledge, and specialization. It also needs some special skills especially if you want to do it self-employed. If you are planning to start your freelance career as a translator on Upwork keep reading so you have a clearer idea and get some tips on how to get your first job.

What skills do I need to become a translator?

There’s the wrong belief that only by speaking two tongues fluently, you can work as a translator. But is not as simple as that. Working as a translator means that you must possess certain skills that make your translator journey more pleasant. These are some relevant ones:

Language skills

The most important skill required for working as a translator is the knowledge of the language. You must be able to speak and write two or more languages fluently so the information you end up writing is as accurate as possible.

Typing skills

You must be able to type fast in order to make your translating work efficient. And is not only about speed, you must be able to type accurately with no typos or grammatical errors. Having the ability of typing well and fast will help you deliver your translation materials on time.

Software skills

Another important skill you must have in order to work as a translator is to master the software you need to perform your job. And it’s not only the productivity software such as Word and Excel, but you must possess the knowledge to use CAT (Computer-assisted translation) tools. These are essential to make your translation work more professional.

Is working as a freelance translator worth it?

Although the beginning of the freelance translator journey is not an easy task, once you’ve made your way freelance translation gives you some benefits that working as part of an agency doesn’t. These are some of them:

Full control of your incomes

You have the freedom to search for the projects that give you the earnings you want. You decide your work hourly rate and how many hours you are willing to work to achieve it.

Time management

Working as an independent translator allows you to manage your time according to your needs. You’ll be able to choose your working hours according to the job you are completing as long as you deliver it on time. This is great for those that have more than 1 job or have to complete other non-job-related activities.


You’ll be able to work with clients abroad, and spread your work to the globe. Even though you work from home, having the experience of working with multiple clients abroad will give you the elements to build a strong curriculum.

Specialize your own way

When you work as a self-employed translator, you have the flexibility of choosing an area of specialization and perfecting it your own way. You’ll be able to choose the projects that will allow you to perfect your specialization area, and also the tools you’ll be using to perfect it.

Is Upwork a good place to start my translator journey?

Upwork is a great place to start your journey as a freelance translator for many reasons, including these ones:

1.- You can find clients from anywhere

Upwork is a global platform and that is a great opportunity (especially for translators) to get jobs from multiple countries around the world. This will give you the opportunity to acquire international experience and add it to your curriculum.

2.- Find specific projects

Upwork gives you the ability to filter your job search according to your specific needs. For example, if you are looking for a translation job related to a specific topic you can use search for that specific term. Then, you’ll be able to filter the results by the client budget, the required level of experience, and the duration of the project.

3.- Secure your payments

When you work on projects through Upwork, Upwork adds a level of protection so the payments are secured. This means that as long as you complete your projects as agreed, Upwork has some tools to give you the certainty that you will get paid. For example, you can track your working hours, as proof of your work. Also, you can set milestones to agree on delivering the work by stages.

How to get my first translation job on Upwork?

To get your first job as a translator on Upwork, you need to understand that Upwork uses a way to ensure the clients will get quality for their projects. In order to secure that part, Upwork relies on profile reputation. When you are have just created your profile and are just beginning, this is a big drawback since your profile will be in zeros: 0 reviews, 0 working hours, 0 jobs, and 0 reputation badges. When competing with others that have more time on the platform and whose profile is more packed this will be a huge downside. But those people had to start just like you, don’t they? So here are some tips that will help you start making your way to get your first job on the platform:

Choose your area of specialization

Before you start bidding on any project, be sure what you want to specialize in for your translation career. Don’t be tempted to offer your translation services on a general approach since this won’t make it for your profile in a long term. Unless the client required a general translation (rare case), almost all of the translation projects require a certain level of specialization. For example, a doctor requiring a translator service for a blog would require you to have some knowledge of translating medicine papers. Bidding on a project with a general translator profile would put you at a disadvantage against the other bidders.

Look for cross-disciplinary jobs

Similar to specialization, there are some multidisciplinary jobs that will increase your chances of getting your first job. What this means is that there are several projects that require your knowledge without asking for a translator. For example, a client for japan asks to write some articles based on a script and asks for a copywriter.

Search in different languages

Some clients tend to post their jobs in their mother tongue. This means that if they are looking for translation services in a language you master, you could multiply your opportunities to get more jobs by performing some searches in English.

Showcase your translation skills

Even though you have little or no experience in translation, it’s a good idea to show your best skills on your Upwork portfolio. If you don’t have already some projects related to translation, we recommend you to complete some projects for yourself. You can make some research and find some public documents and translate them into a different language. Once you complete them and you are happy with the result, you can ask for some feedback from peers on forums. This will give you more certainty that your work is good enough to be in your portfolio.

Bid on small projects

When starting on Upwork, it’s a good idea to start bidding on projects with low-budget and with little competition (0-5 proposals). This will give your proposal more chances to be read and your profile more chances to get noticed. Although you’ll always be tempted by big projects that require the expertise you have, we recommend you save those connects for when you have a stronger profile. If you prefer to go the other way, you’ll probably end wasting all of your connects before getting your first job.

Write an outstanding proposal

The proposal is an essential part for getting jobs on Upwork. Is the first contact you’ll have with the client and it’s where they’ll start forming an opinion about you as a professional. Seeing it as a way to market yourself, a well-written cover letter on its own can get you to the next step of the sale process which is the interview.

A proposal template for translators

If you are unsure on how to write a good proposal for bidding for jobs with an empty profile you can use this template a as guide. Feel free to use it and edit it according to your specific needs. Remember not to use exactly the same proposal for all job applications since this can make them automatically rejected (some clients post more than 1 job):

Hello first name of the client,

My name is your name, a translator specialized in write here your specialization area with write here years experience years experience performing write a short summary of  activities you perform in your translation services.

Top 3 details/achievements of my career as a translator:

🈂️ First short relevant aspect about your experience as a translator. Don’t include information already on your profile. You can include links. Also, try to include information relevant to the job post.

🌍 Second short relevant aspect about your experience as a translator. Don’t include information already on your profile. You can include links. Also, try to include information relevant to the job post.

✍️ Third short relevant aspect about your experience as a translator. Don’t include information already on your profile. You can include links. Also, try to include information relevant to the job post.

Regarding your project, include here a brief idea of how you are planning to work on the project. You can also include a recommendation for completing the project more efficiently

If you are interested don’t hesitate to request an interview and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Write here “Kind regards” in the target language (kind regards), your name

Become the best freelancer through training

If you are very ambitious regarding your freelance journey through Upwork, you should consider getting some guidance from professionals already on the platform. Ross Jenkins, our founder, and CEO offer his training to help freelancers reach success in less time. By taking some training sessions with him you’ll get to know some tips and tricks for becoming top-rated and expert-vetted on the platform. Or if you are planning to go major-leagues, you can also learn how to launch your translator agency within the platform. Click the following button to know more information and request a call with Ross Jenkins himself.